Community Leaders Explore Affordable Health Coverage Options - Asking Small Employers to Complete Survey Today!

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In an effort to address the need for affordable health insurance, especially for small employers in Central Texas, the Regional Health Coverage Advisory Council has assembled a team of community leaders to launch an exciting, new initiative. The Group is developing low cost, basic Health Coverage Plan(s) for small Texas employers (2 to 50 employees), available in late Fall 2008. The group is asking small employers and their employees to go online today to complete a short, less than 10 minute survey, at http://www.healthcarecentraltexas.com about the price and benefits offered.

Our goal isn't to come up with a plan and ask everyone to accept it

In an effort to address the need for affordable health insurance, especially for small employers in Central Texas, the Regional Health Coverage Advisory Council has assembled a team of community leaders to launch an exciting, new initiative. The Group is developing low cost, basic Health Coverage Plan(s) for small Texas employers (2 to 50 employees), available in late Fall 2008.

The group is asking small employers and their employees to go online today to complete a short, less than 10 minute survey, at http://www.healthcarecentraltexas.com about the price and benefits offered.

"If you are a small employer or someone who works at a business or nonprofit with less than 50 employees - we are asking you to make sure your opinion is counted," said Ann Kitchen, a planning group member and ICC Executive Director. "The deadline for completing the survey is August 8th."

The group is asking for input to make sure that the benefits the Plan(s) offer meet the health care needs of small employers and their employees - at a price that they can afford.    

Survey responses will be used to inform the benefits proposed by a group of physician and business leaders.

The Regional Advisory Council includes over 60 business, brokers, healthcare and other community leaders in the Central Texas region including local Chambers of Commerce, all the major hospitals, physicians, and other organizations.

"A healthy workforce is key to our region's continued prosperity and small businesses are an important part of our community and what helps make it unique," stated Andy Martinez, Executive Director of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

"If small businesses can't attract and retain employees while staying competitive and doing the right thing for their employees and families - then our entire regional economy is in trouble. It's time for small businesses to help figure out what kind of health coverage package will work for us. We can't wait any longer."

"Our goal isn't to come up with a plan and ask everyone to accept it," says Clarke Heidrick, a planning group member and Board Member, Travis County Healthcare District. "We want to hear directly from small businesses about what will work for them and how the right health coverage package can help businesses and individuals succeed and be competitive in our region and beyond."

"The lack of health insurance for working people impacts everyone in Central Texas, whether they have health insurance or not. Those with insurance pay higher rates and people without insurance may not seek medical care until their need is critical - and expensive," said Ann Kitchen, a planning group member and ICC Executive Director.

This is a non profit effort, initiated by community leaders. A new and unique approach to pricing is used to keep the premium low-cost, as well as prevention - providing employees with incentives and tools to better manage their health. The program will also be available for some lower wage workers as a "three-share" - where the premium cost is split between the employer, the employee, and a third funding source.

This program is part of a state-wide effort to create community solutions for the high number of small businesses that are unable to offer health insurance to their employees - business leaders in Houston, Galveston, Dallas, El Paso, and Brazos Valley are also working on these programs for their communities. Galveston started enrolling businesses in their program on July 1st of this year.

Texas ranks number one in the nation for uninsured with one-in-four Texans having no healthcare coverage. Among the reasons for our high uninsured rates are the numbers of Texas businesses and nonprofits that are unable to offer coverage to their employees. The Central Texas Regional Health Coverage Project's mission is to offer, on a multi-county basis, a basic, low-cost health plan(s) for small employers and their employees that:

  • Improves the health and access to healthcare of those insured by the program
  • Helps small businesses remain competitive with a healthy workforce
  • Expands the size of the insured pool in Central Texas
  • Adds more revenue to the region's healthcare system
  • Encourages patient responsibility in their health

Approximately 18 % of the people in Central Texas lack sufficient health coverage, even though the majority of them are employed. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2003, Texas ranked 48th in the nation, with only 52.4 % of Texans having employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. Of the over 32,000 small businesses in the 6 county region of Central Texas (Williamson, Travis, Hays, Burnet, Bastrop, Caldwell), 40% are currently unable to offer their employees health insurance and most have not been able to for at least five years.

The Group confirmed the need for low cost coverage last year through a survey and focus groups of small employers and employees conducted prior to launching the planning effort:

  • Over 80% of small employers not offering insurance Strongly or Somewhat Agree that if they could find affordable health coverage, they would provide it to their employees
  • 74% of these respondents felt that being able to offer insurance would make recruiting and retention easier
  • 88% of these respondents had been unable to offer insurance to their employees in the past 5 years

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Ann Kitchen
ICC
512-804-2090
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